High and Low
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
High and Low is a police procedural crime drama that is loosely based on Ed McBain’s 1959 novel, King’s Ransom. High and Low is a masterpiece. Expertly controlled pacing and cinematography paint vivid picture of class divisions. High and Low is an entertaining film and an incisive social commentary.
Directed by Fritz Lang
M is a German movie about a serial killer. Fritz Lang’s first sound film, M is expertly plotted with near-flawless acting, music, and cinematography. M is a technical masterpiece and an insightful comment on the 1930s German environment that Lang would leave in few years’ time.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Logan Lucky is a heist film that follows three siblings who plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway. The film’s ambitions are on a far smaller scale than the theft planned by its protagonists, but Steven Soderbergh shares their commitment and attention to detail; Logan Lucky has modest aims and a nearly flawless execution. It’s effortless fun to watch.
Directed by Ben and Josh Safdie
Good Time is a crime-drama about two brothers who rob a bank and weather the aftermath. The film is paced well and Robert Pattinson’s performance is riveting. Though the tone is far bleaker than its wildly deceptive title suggests, Good Time’s specificity and emotional nuance pull it away from miserabilism, and it ultimately strikes a strong and thoughtful note.
Directed by Martin McDonagh
In Bruges is an English language black comedy set in Bruges. In Bruges is clever, but sometimes too clever. The jokes are consistently funny, but sometimes descend into mean-spiritedness, and the movie sometimes threatens to veer into nihilism.
Hell or High Water
Directed by David Mackenzie
Hell or High Water is a neo-western crime drama that follows two brothers who rob banks. Blending clichés of westerns, West Texas, bank robbing, and crime thrillers, some scenes work better than others. And the social commentary alternates between incisive and broad often. Hell or High Water, though, is always full of wit, life, and energy, and that, always, is enough.
Directed by Dan Gilroy
Nightcrawler is a thriller that follows a thief who begins shooting live footage of accidents and crimes in Los Angeles and selling the content to a local news channel as a stringer. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a successfully unnerving performance as the sociopathic main character. The film’s tone, though, fluctuates wildly. The social comment is derivative and generally aimed at easy targets. Nightcrawler has a lot to say, but little of it is meaningful.
Would not see.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Vertigo, based on Boileau-Narcejac’s 1954 novel, D’entre les morts, is a psychological thriller about an acrophobic former police detective hired by an acquaintance as a private investigator. Vertigo is well-paced, well-shot, and well-acted, though some of the effects hold up better than others. The film, fittingly, leaves one mildly uncertain of what to make of anyone and less sure as one peers deeper.
The Bad Sleep Well
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
The Bad Sleep Well is a Japanese language thriller about revenge and corporate corruption. The film is occasionally sentimental and the female characters are thinly sketched, but it is still a great film. The Bad Sleep Well’s plot moves both unexpectedly and inevitably to its stark conclusion and pointed social criticism.
The Godfather Part II
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather Part II, partially based on Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel, The Godfather, is both a prequel and a sequel to Coppola’s 1972 film of the same name. The Godfather Part II has all of the well-crafted dialogue and well-framed shots of its predecessor, but lacks some of its tight pacing and thematic coherence. The prequel segments, particularly, tracking the rise of a young Vito Corleone, are not given enough time to fully develop as a meaningful complement to the film’s sequel narrative, following Vito’s son, Michael, and essentially end up being diversionary interruptions to the main story as a result.